What Makes Hotel Expatriates Remain in Their Overseas Assignments: A Grounded Theory Study

By Ho, Zoe Ju-Yu | The Qualitative Report, June 25, 2012 | Go to article overview

What Makes Hotel Expatriates Remain in Their Overseas Assignments: A Grounded Theory Study


Ho, Zoe Ju-Yu, The Qualitative Report


In today's global business world, an increasing number of employees travel and work for international assignments. Employees who participate in international assignments are commonly called expatriates. Many international hotel chains (IHCs) have sent their employees overseas to maintain corporate standards, fill skills gaps, and transfer technology and corporate culture in their worldwide properties (Lomax, 2001). Although hotel expatriates may live and work in popular tourist destinations or major cities around the world and receive attractive compensation packages, lives of hotel expatriates are not always full of glamour and excitement. They may be assigned to underdeveloped or still-developing countries, where cultures, living standards, and business practices significantly differ from those of their home countries. Failure to make cultural adjustment may result in expatriates' incompletion of their international assignments and returning to their home countries prematurely.

In previous studies across different industries researchers have reported expatriate's assignment incompletion rates of approximately 25 to 40 percent (Black, Gregersen, Mendenhall, & Stroch, 1999; Forster, 1997; Harrison, 1994). The incompletion of overseas assignments has cost multinational corporations between $50,000 and $150,000 financially to reassign and remunerate their expatriates (Feng & Pearson, 1999; Shay & Tracey, 1997). Other costs may include lost sales and a fragile corporate image to international corporations. For expatriates themselves, they may return to their home country with low self-esteem and become less confident for future assignments. Therefore, understanding what keeps hotel expatriates remaining in their overseas assignment is an essential component of recruitment and retention strategies for IHCs.

Many studies across various industries have been conducted to identify variables related to expatriate failure, performance evaluation, and repatriation as well as examine causal or predictive relationships among variables (Brewster, 1995; Hogan & Shelton, 1998; Lee & Liu, 2006; Mendenhall & Oddou, 1985; Ones & Viswesvaran, 1999; Teagarden & Gordon, 1995; Tung, 1981). However, in this study the researcher aimed to use a qualitative approach to explore what makes hotel expatriates stay in their international assignments. In order to provide a holistic insight into hotel expatriates' international experiences from their own perspectives, four preliminary research questions were developed:

--How do hotel expatriates characterize their early lives, educational backgrounds, and personalities? How do these personal characteristics relate to their careers in the hotel industry?

--What motivate hotel expatriates to work overseas? What motivate them to continue working overseas?

--How do overseas assignments affect hotel expatriates values, beliefs, families, and social lives? How do they cope with the challenges derived from their overseas assignment?

--What do hotel expatriates learn from their overseas assignments? How do they see themselves in the overseas assignments?

One of the key purposes of this research from business organizations' perspectives is to provide relevant information based on empirical data so that IHCs can implement in expatriates' recruitment and retention. Another key purpose is that novice hotel expatriates can refer the research findings as their guidance to help them remain on their overseas assignments. In addition, the research findings may assist hospitality educators in designing relevant curricula and help students develop competencies for their careers as hotel expatriates.

Research Methods and Designs

In this study the researcher adapted a qualitative research design in order to gain rich descriptions of hotel expatriates' feelings, meanings and interpretations given to their international assignments. …

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